To properly understand the advantages of the Minimum Loveable Product (MLP) let’s first quickly examine its predecessor the MVP. As you probably already know, the Minimum Viable Product has been the first step in digital product design for almost a decade now, since Eric Ries introduced it in his seminal book, ‘The Lean Startup’.
Essentially, an MVP means working lean. It boils off the fat and reduces a concept down to its most essential. The “minimum”. But what exactly is minimum? And what is viable? Debates over these two are commonplace in our industry, and can often leave a meeting room feeling pretty tense. In worst case scenarios, “MVP” is synonymous with “good enough” and is used as an excuse to unblock a project and push low quality work live.
In addition, less experienced teams can find themselves disappointed when their MVP doesn’t quite get the traction they’d hoped for. In fact MVPs by definition, are a testing tool, designed to gain user feedback and validate a concept. They were never intended to gain traction. The days where a product intended for testing can also be taken to market are alas, long gone. The competitive marketplace, now more than ever, demands more than viable.
A better way
The Minimum Loveable Product focuses on growth right off the bat. Ex- Y Combinator’s, Sam Altman stated, “It’s better to build something that a small number of users love, than a large number of users will like.” I mean, it makes sense right? When was the last time you sent someone a link to an average song? Recommended a restaurant that was ‘okay’? It seems obvious when comparing to other industries but somehow, within our own industry (or company), we forget. If you’re looking for concept validation, go with the MVP, but as soon as you’re looking for real engagement, it’s time to upgrade.
If you’re looking for concept validation, go with the MVP, but as soon as you’re looking for real engagement, it’s time to upgrade.
What exactly is lovable?
User experience is measured on a scale from frustration to delight. Delight is lovable. But delight is not just a fancy colour scheme or a tasty font-pairing. It certainly can’t be stuck on at the end. It begins at the beginning, it begins with positioning. Delight is the by-product of an elegant solution to a real problem (your designer can help with that ‘elegant’ bit). And if you manage to create this level of emotional engagement with your users, it just might turn out remarkable.
It’s this “remarkable” bit that drives growth. An experience people enjoy so much that they want to share it with their friends or their network. Depending on your target audience, sharing could make them feel like an expert, help them earn social kudos, or anything in between. Now what this means for us, as digital product makers, is organic growth right off the bat. And in essence, this is the big difference between the MVP and MLP.
What about Minimum?
You might be thinking, “OK sure, great UX is obviously a good idea. But what you’re describing sounds like a full-fledged product, we can’t afford that yet, we’re just starting out.” Exactly what ‘minimum’ entails, and conversely, what should get cut out, is one of the most contentious parts of the MVP. We see it often done wrong—and at great detriment.
The answer to the conundrum of not enough time or resources, is to cut scope, not quality. Focus. Focus on what is absolutely essential, and put all resources behind this killer feature. Discard the rest. Create one simple thing people love, engage with and maybe even tell their friends about. Offset the risk of narrowing your feature offering, with a string of painted doors to evaluate engagement with other potential features. This way you have the opportunity for real engagement, without clipping your feedback range. Have your cake and eat it too.
Let’s do it! How do we start?
To execute the focused scope of the MLP with confidence, a little more preparation is required than with its predecessor. Specifically in the User Research phase. Make sure that before you begin you have both a strong understanding of who you’re creating for, and have validated your hypotheses with either an MVP or a click-dummy prototype. With this foundation, you’ll be ready for the next step. Creating something that with limited resources can move you beyond simple validation, and start providing users with a delightful experience that drives growth, right off the bat.